Siyoni declared a hostile witness in Panayiotou Trial

2016-11-17 17:14
Luthando Siyoni (Netwerk24)

Luthando Siyoni (Netwerk24)

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Port Elizabeth - A key witness in the trial of Christopher Panayiotou, Luthando Siyoni, who is also a co-accused, has been declared hostile by the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth after he again refused to answer any questions put to him by the State. 

Siyoni, the alleged middleman between Panayiotou and the alleged hitman, was given section 204 status, providing him with potential indemnity against charges relating to his involvement in the murder of Jayde Panayiotou last year should he testify truthfully and honestly. 

However, following Siyoni's testimony State prosecutor Marius Stander sought permission from the court to discredit his testimony on Tuesday.

At first Siyoni answered questions put to him by Stander, but on Wednesday, he refused to answer any questions relating to his statements, based on advice from his attorney, Zolile Ngqeza. 

Stander asked Siyoni numerous questions during the morning session on Thursday, but Siyoni refused outright to answer, saying he would not answer any questions because Stander had set out to discredit him.

"I am not going to answer any question as Mr Stander has already taken the decision to discredit me, if Mr Stander did not take that decision, then I would answer the question," he said.

Section 204 statements

"I'm not saying he can't put questions to me, but there are no questions I am going to answer again," said Siyoni. 

Asked if he would respond to a question from the court or the counsel of the accused, Siyoni said he would not answer any questions. 

Stander asked Siyoni if he had at any stage wanted to distance himself from his section 204 statements, or had told any of his legal counsel, or any of the magistrates who had visited him on a weekly basis while he was in protective custody that he was assaulted or that he wanted to change his version of events.

Siyoni simply refused to answer. Asked if his rights had been explained to him, including his rights as a section 204 witness, Siyoni again refused to answer. 

Stander put it on record that Siyoni was detained in protective custody from August 5, 2015, at the Humewood police station holding cells, and had only been released in October 2016.

He also put it to Siyoni that he had given police permission to access his Facebook account and Facebook Messenger conversations in October last year. 

Different version of events

When asked if he had made a statement in October this year to say his life was no longer in danger, and he no longer needed protective custody, Siyoni answered, saying, "Yes, my life was never in danger."

His version of events regarding the assault changed after his girlfriend Babalwa Breakfast's arrest after her testimony in court, Stander said. He also put it to Siyoni that his rights were explained to him prior to him making his confession, prior to his arrest and prior to his making his section 204 statement.

Stander also put it to Siyoni that he was not assaulted in the way it had been put to the court.

"I want to put it to you that at a later stage, that your argument relating to this version of assault came about after the arrest of Babalwa Breakfast," said Stander. Siyoni simply refused to answer. 

Stander went on to say that Siyoni had at all times co-operated, and had never been threatened, pressurised or influenced in any way.

Stander also submitted evidence to the court that showed that Siyoni had been visited weekly by magistrates as part of his protective custody order, and that he had never raised the issue of being assaulted or wanting to change his statement. 

In a brief respite from his refusal to answer, Siyoni said before the magistrates had come to see him, Swanepoel had approached him in the cells at Humewood and told him not to say anything about the assault.

Complaints

Stander pointed out that Siyoni had complained about not using the gym, about his family not visiting him frequently, about not being able to make telephone calls or have his own cellphone. He also asked for a radio and complained about the coffee being too weak, the soup being cold and the food not being enough. 

"You regularly complained that Kanna Swanepoel was not visiting you? I want to give you the opportunity, this man who has threatened you and influenced you to make the statement, why would you complain that he is not visiting you?" asked Stander, but Siyoni refused to answer. 

Stander then asked that, in light of Siyoni refusing to answer any questions, the court declare him hostile, which Judge Dayalin Chetty then did. 

Stander then indicated he had no further questions for the witness. 

Defence counsel for Panayiotou, senior Advocate Terry Price SC, then told Siyoni that he wanted to find out if he was going to answer his questions. He said he was not seeking to discredit him, or prove that he had perjured himself, but rather wanted to show he was telling the truth. 

"I am going to use the State's own documents to prove that you are telling the truth, will you help me to prove that, or would you like to discuss it with your attorney first?" he asked. 

Siyoni said he would like to discuss it with his attorney. Price asked for court to be adjourned until tomorrow. Stander did not object and Chetty adjourned for the day. 

The trial is scheduled to resume on Friday at 09:30.

Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  crime

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